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Opinion: A Competitive U.S. Can’t Leave Art Behind

As STEM learning is emphasized lately, some educators are questioning if other enriching subjects that spur creativity and innovation are getting ignored. 


In an attempt to spur on a globally competitive citizenry within the next generation, science, technology, engineering, and math have been in the spotlight both in terms of what industries high paying jobs are in and what skills U.S. companies demand. Penn State professor of art education Christine Marmé  Thompson—along with many others—believes that the arts should not be ignored, according to a recent article.


"Eliminating the arts from the curriculum is short-sighted on a number of levels," Thompson said. "Seeing art as expendable indicates a deep misunderstanding of the role it plays at the center of learning. The visual arts are a powerful language for communicating concepts and theories in any field, both during the process of being developed and once they are finished 'products' to be shared with others."


Additionally, art has worked as both a way to make political commentary and emotional statements, but it also acts as a historical record that reflects cultures, views, and issues of their times of creation. This synergistic movement of expression, education, and industry is why so many educators are pushing to transform STEM, into STEAM, adding in the subject of art. 


I feel so strongly that schools without art education programs will narrow students' education and potential contributions to society … Overall, I think there is often less emphasis on making art in art classes today, for reasons that are often practical and financial, including lack of supplies and storage. There is great disparity in the ways that art is taught and provided for from one school to the next, much as there is tremendous difference in the ways that schools are funded and provisioned across the country, even from neighborhood to neighborhood. But whatever the circumstances, the work of dedicated art teachers is vital for some children, and significant for all.


Thompson said that this is a critical moment for uncovering the complexities of teaching K-12. 


"I believe this is a time when we need to listen to children, to parents, and to teachers, and to realize that the things that make children happy and proud and confident matter a great deal, and belong in schools. Every child deserves to have diverse educational experiences, including in the arts, so they can determine what they love to do and who they hope to be. That is supposed to be how America works,” Thompson said in the article.


Read the full story. If you have a STEAM program at your school, share in the comments below why the program works well for your community.



Article by Jason Papallo, Education World Social Media Editor

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